1927. The only biography written about Spinoza by someone who knew him well. Spinoza was one of those great men who made himself famous by views that were unusual and unknown to common souls. His father was a Portuguese Jew and because he did not have the means to help his son in business, he allowed Spinoza to study Hebrew literature. Due to the inadequacy of answers to questions voiced to his teacher, Spinoza began to read scripture over and over again, penetrated its obscurity, laid bare its mysteries and brought daylight to the clouds behind which he found truth.
Pioneering biblical critic, theorist of democracy, and legendary conflater of God and nature, Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was excommunicated by the Sephardic Jews of Amsterdam in 1656 for his "horrible heresies" and "monstrous deeds." Yet, over the past three centuries, Spinoza's rupture with traditional Jewish beliefs and practices has elevated him to a prominent place in genealogies of Jewish modernity. The First Modern Jew provides a riveting look at how Spinoza went from being one of Judaism's most notorious outcasts to one of its most celebrated, if still highly controversial, cultural icons, and a powerful and protean symbol of the first modern secular Jew. Ranging from Amsterdam to Palestine and back again to Europe, the book chronicles Spinoza's posthumous odyssey from marginalized heretic to hero, the exemplar of a whole host of Jewish identities, including cosmopolitan, nationalist, reformist, and rejectionist. Daniel Schwartz shows that in fashioning Spinoza into "the first modern Jew," generations of Jewish intellectuals--German liberals, East European maskilim, secular Zionists, and Yiddishists--have projected their own dilemmas of identity onto him, reshaping the Amsterdam thinker in their own image. The many afterlives of Spinoza are a kind of looking glass into the struggles of Jewish writers over where to draw the boundaries of Jewishness and whether a secular Jewish identity is indeed possible. Cumulatively, these afterlives offer a kaleidoscopic view of modern Jewish cultureand a vivid history of an obsession with Spinoza that continues to this day.
In this classic work the author undertakes to show how Spinoza's philosophical ideas, particularly his political ideas, were influenced by his underlying emotional responses to the conflicts of his time. It thus differs form most professional philosophical analyses of the philosophy of Spinoza. The author identifies and discusses three periods in the development of Spinoza's thought and shows how they were reactions to the religious, political and economic developments in the Netherlands at the time. In his first period, Spinoza reacted very strongly to the competitive capitalism of the Amsterdam Jews whose values were "so thoroughly pervaded by an economic ethics that decrees the stock exchange approached in dignity the decrees of God," and of the ruling classes of Amsterdam, and was led out only to give up his business activities but also to throw in his lot with the Utopian groups of the day. In his second period, Spinoza developed serious doubts about the practicality of such idealistic movements and became a "mature political partisan" of Dutch liberal republicanism. The collapse of republicanism and the victory of the royalist party brought further disillusionment. Having become more reserved concerning democratic processes, and having decided that "every form of government could be made consistent with the life of free men," Spinoza devoted his time and efforts to deciding what was essential to any form of government which would make such a life possible. In his carefully crafted introduction to this new edition, Lewis Feuer responds to his critics, and reviews Spinoza's worldview in the light of the work of later scientists sympathetic to this own basic standpoint. He reviews Spinoza's arguments for the ethical and political contributions of the principle of determinism, and examines how these have guided, and at times frustrated, students and scholars of the social and physical sciences who have sought to understand and advance these disciplines.
In our ever more secular times—is providence lost? Perhaps, but as Lloyd makes clear, providence still exerts a powerful influence on our thought and in our lives. This book traces a succession of transformations in the concept of providence through the history of Western philosophy.
Part of the Jewish Encounter series In 1656, Amsterdam’s Jewish community excommunicated Baruch Spinoza, and, at the age of twenty–three, he became the most famous heretic in Judaism. He was already germinating a secularist challenge to religion that would be as radical as it was original. He went on to produce one of the most ambitious systems in the history of Western philosophy, so ahead of its time that scientists today, from string theorists to neurobiologists, count themselves among Spinoza’s progeny. In Betraying Spinoza, Rebecca Goldstein sets out to rediscover the flesh-and-blood man often hidden beneath the veneer of rigorous rationality, and to crack the mystery of the breach between the philosopher and his Jewish past. Goldstein argues that the trauma of the Inquisition’ s persecution of its forced Jewish converts plays itself out in Spinoza’s philosophy. The excommunicated Spinoza, no less than his excommunicators, was responding to Europe’ s first experiment with racial anti-Semitism. Here is a Spinoza both hauntingly emblematic and deeply human, both heretic and hero—a surprisingly contemporary figure ripe for our own uncertain age. From the Hardcover edition.
Ex nihilo nihil fit. Philosophy, especially great philosophy, does not appear out of the blue. In the current volume, a team of top scholars-both up-and-coming and established-attempts to trace the philosophical development of one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Featuring twenty new essays and an introduction, it is the first attempt of its kind in English and its appearance coincides with the recent surge of interest in Spinoza in Anglo-American philosophy. Spinoza's fame-or notoriety-is due primarily to his posthumously published magnum opus, the Ethics, and, to a lesser extent, to the 1670 Theological-Political Treatise. Few readers take the time to study his early works carefully. If they do, they are likely to encounter some surprising claims, which often diverge from, or even utterly contradict, the doctrines of the Ethics. Consider just a few of these assertions: that God acts from absolute freedom of will, that God is a whole, that there are no modes in God, that extension is divisible and hence cannot be an attribute of God, and that the intellectual and corporeal substances are modes in relation to God. Yet, though these claims reveal some tension between the early works and the Ethics, there is also a clear continuity between them. Spinoza wrote the Ethics over a long period of time, which spanned most of his philosophical career. The dates of the early drafts of the Ethics seem to overlap with the assumed dates of the composition of the Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and the Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well Being and precede the publication of Spinoza's 1663 book on Descartes' Principles of Philosophy. For this reason, a study of Spinoza's early works (and correspondence) can illuminate the nature of the problems Spinoza addresses in the Ethics, insofar as the views expressed in the early works help us reconstruct the development and genealogy of the Ethics. Indeed, if we keep in mind the common dictum "nothing comes from nothing"-which Spinoza frequently cites and appeals to-it is clear that great works like the Ethics do not appear ex nihilo. In light of the preeminence and majesty of the Ethics, it is difficult to study the early works without having the Ethics in sight. Still, we would venture to say that the value of Spinoza's early works is not at all limited to their being stations on the road leading to the Ethics. A teleological attitude of such a sort would celebrate the works of the "mature Spinoza" at the expense of the early works. However, we have no reason to assume that on all issues the views of the Ethics are better argued, developed, and motivated than those of the early works. In other words, we should keep our minds open to the possibility that on some issues the early works might contain better analysis and argumentation than the Ethics.
My purpose in this book is to re-interpret the philosophy of Spinoza to a new generation. I make no attempt to compete with the historical scholar ship of A. H. Wolfson in tracing back Spinoza's ideas to his Ancient, Hebrew and Mediaeval forerunners, or the meticulous philosophical scrutiny of Harold Joachim, which I could wish to emulate but cannot hope to rival. I have simply relied upon the text of Spinoza's own writings in an effort to grasp and to make intelligible to others the precise meaning of his doctrine, and to decide whether, in spite of numerous apparent and serious internal conflicts, it can be understood as a consistent whole. In so doing I have found it necessary to correct what seem to me t0' be mis conceptions frequently entertained by commentators. Whether or not I am right in my re-interpretation, it will, I hope, contribute something fresh, if not to the knowledge of Spinoza, at least to the discussion of what he really meant to say. The limits within which I am constrained to write prevent me from drawing fully upon the great mass of scholarly writings on Spinoza, his life and times, his works and his philosophical ideas. I can only try to make amends for omissions by listing the most important works in the Spinoza bibliography, for reference by those who would seek to know more about his philosophy. This list I have added as an appendix.